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Rangers and Isles Ready To Go Saturday

There's been quite the buildup for tonight's Rangers-Islanders game at the Nassau Coliseum---not out of place considering this is the most important regular season game played between the two teams probably in six years. And now all of the preliminaries are out of the way as both teams took part in their respective morning skates on Saturday, and the puck is set to be dropped shortly after 7:00 PM.

And there's no doubt the players are ready for this battle.

"It's a huge game with two teams that are desperate for points, fighting for a playoff berth, so the intensity is going to be there," stated Rick Nash after the morning skate.

The Rangers open play today sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the seventh place Islanders, though with a game in hand, and even in points with ninth place Winnipeg---which has played two more games than the Rangers. With just eight games remaining on their schedule, it's clear this is a hugely important contest for the Rangers.

While his players were willing to admit that tonight's game will carry a little something special with it, Rangers head coach John Tortorella was more focused on the bigger picture this morning when speaking with reporters.

"We know how important all the games are," explained Tortorella, whose club is 4-1-1 since the NHL trade deadline. "It's about getting two points. I'm not going any further than that. That's the most important thing, getting two points. All I am concerned about is trying to win a hockey game."

The Rangers are 2-0-1 against the Islanders this season, and have fared a touch better against Atlantic Division foes than have the Islanders. The Rangers are 7-5-2 within their division this season, while the Islanders are 7-8-1. Though the Isles have won four straight on home ice, they are just 9-11-2 at the Nassau Coliseum this year, while the Rangers are an uncharcteristic 7-10-2 on the road.

However when the Rangers and Islanders meet, especially on Long Island, numbers and stats can be thrown right out the window. A different energy takes over those games, and likely will even more so tonight with so much at stake for each team. It is something that Ryane Clowe---playing in his first Rangers-Isles contest this evening---can sense.

"From what I am hearing these games are always intense, but tonight there is a lot on the line," explained Clowe. "With so much at stake it's going to be crazy. I'm just excited to get out there during warmups and feel that energy in the building. And you have to have fun with it. That's still a part of the game. I think all of the guys welcome playing games that mean so much where the atmosphere is so great. It'll be a lot of fun, especially for me as the new guy in this rivalry."

During the Rangers first visit to the Nassau Coliseum in early March, Nash commented on how amazed he was with how many of the Blueshirts Faithful took over the building, outnumbering Islanders fans on the road. While there is expected to be more Islanders fans in the sold-out crowd tonight, Nash is sure the Blueshirts Faithful will still be heard from.

"I have been so impressed with Rangers fans, they're the best fans in the league," said Nash. "We have a great following no matter where we go. I wouldn't expect anything different tonight. So it should be fun."

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Just down the hall at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders were echoing similar sentiments regarding tonight's matchup. Like Tortorella, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said his team must enter tonight with the same mentality as any other big game.

"We know that our opponent tonight is a good team," he said. "They've been playing extremely well. They've got a great goaltender. There's some things we have to be better tonight if we're going to have success."

The Islanders enter tonight's game winners of eight of their last 10. Capuano said Evgeni Nabokov will start in net opposite Henrik Lundqvist.

Forward Kyle Okposo said the players may feel "an extra pep" during warmups due to the crowd, but that they must stay grounded.

"It's a big game. It's probably the biggest that I've been apart of with Rangers-Islanders," he said. "It's a hockey game. It's two points, and that's how we're looking at it. Our mindset isn't going to change."

Tonight's game, like most Rangers-Islanders matchups at the Coliseum, will have a divided crowd with many Rangers fans making the trip to Uniondale. John Tavares, who has two goals in three games against the Blueshirts, said it'll be like previous games in the stands tonight, if not more intense due to what is on the line.

"I assume it'll be much the same, just could be a little bit louder and a little more intense," he said. "I don't know if there will be more fights in the stands than there usually is. There will be a lot of passion, intensity. It's, for me, I don't see anything better than this in the league."

Share your thoughts on tonight's big Rangers-Islanders game in the comments below.

Apr 13 - 4:35pm
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